Having a conversation with a former student can be an eye-opening experience. It’s a chance to see what “stuck” with the student – what lessons or activities were memorable, what was liked about my class, what was NOT liked. (And now that they are no longer my students, they usually feel more comfortable sharing these thoughts.)
As a junior high teacher, I have gotten to hear how some of my former students are adjusting during freshman year. I have had a chance to talk to some as they are making some big decisions their senior year. I’ve even ran into a few who have graduated from both high school and college and are now working as adults.
Hearing about the paths they have chosen and the experiences they have had since leaving my classroom are important to me. These conversations are reminders that teachers are given a unique opportunity. They get to be a part, if even just a very small part, of each student’s journey through school and beyond.
I’ve been reading The New Teacher Revolution: Changing Education for a New Generation of Learners by Josh Stumpenhorst. This is what he wrote in the book’s introduction about the great teachers he has connected with during his career:
“They all believe they could be doing better and seek out ways to improve.”
So what are the things I can be doing to become better? How can I “seek out” ways to improve my teaching?
I feel there are three strategies that will allow me to continue to improve as a teacher:
- Honestly evaluate what’s working, and what’s not working, in my classroom
- Accept helpful advice and constructive feedback from others
Efforts to become a better teacher will benefit me and my students – sounds like a win-win situation to me.
I’ve been busy working in my classroom to prepare for students arriving next week. There is so much to have ready and get done, but I always make sure that I have healthy green plants around my classroom by that first day. Since I started teaching, I have had plants in my room. I love the look of the bright, green leaves and feel that plants are an instant sign of life in the classroom!
I have absolutely loved my summer break – lots of time spent with family and a chance to enjoy the sun, the water, and some free time. It is also so nice to take a break from my normal routines at home and school.
Someone commented to me that it must be really nice to have an actual “end” to the past school year and be able to start over again each fall. This is important – not just for the teachers, but for the students, as well.
I really do appreciate the chance to step away from my regular responsibilities for a while. I feel like I can start the school year with a new perspective. I can have a fresh start.
I’m on spring break this week and am loving the opportunity to read. I finished Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult and have started The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. I also requested Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, from the library.
Hard to believe that there will only be seven more weeks of school after I get back from break. The year has flown by and there’s still so much I want to do in the classroom. Time to enjoy the last few days of break before getting back to school!
I had the opportunity to participate in STEM training on Friday and loved it! The instructor provided lots of hands-on activities for participants to complete. It was great getting to try out the activities rather than talk about them. It was a reminder that students learn so much more by doing, instead of just discussing a topic or watching someone else. I left the training with ideas that I am excited to try in my own classroom.
If you are interested in incorporating STEM activities in your classroom, check out the Taped Towers activity I posted. It is a simple and engaging activity that my students enjoyed.
We have reached the midpoint of the school year. At this time of year I always start thinking about the 8th graders that are graduating. What topics do I still want to teach them? What labs and activities do I want to make sure that they experience before they are no longer in my classes? I start feeling like I am running out of time.
I recently read an article by Trent Hamm on The Simple Dollar. The article included the following description of investing:
“The broader definition of investing: an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”
As a teacher, I have expectations for my students. I have expectations for behavior in my classroom, expectations for the quality of work that my students turn in, and expectations for student achievment.
All of these expectations are in the hope of “a worthwhile result”. I invest my time, effort, and energy because I think in the end it will matter. There are days when I can’t easily see what I am working towards. Days when a student “just doesn’t get it”, days when the lesson doesn’t have the impact I was hoping for.
Then, all of the sudden, I look at my 8th grade students and see the growth and progress that has been made. As I continue to prepare them for high school and beyond, I can see that the time and effort and energy has led to “a worthwhile result”.
When you think back on your own education, what stands out to you? So often, people who begin a teaching career remember a great teacher that inspired them. What if we thought about our teaching careers in a different way? What if we thought about the teacher we wish we could have had?
Imagine your ideal day in a classroom as a student. (OK. Getting to watch movies, eat snacks, and hang out with friends all day long does not count!) Think about it. Think about the subjects you teach. How do you wish a teacher would have taught you?
Now go do that for your students. Be that teacher.
I have to admit it – it is hard to return to school after winter break. Two weeks of a more lenient schedule, holiday get-togethers with family and friends, a chance to get extra rest – all of these things make me wish for just a little more time. However, with the return to school comes the start of a new year and a chance for new beginnings.
Times like these make me realize that I just have to start. START. Not make lists of what I want to do, not plan out a detailed time line of exactly when I need to complete certain tasks. I just have to START DOING SOMETHING. Then, before I know it, I am reminded of the important work that teachers do. I am reminded that my students, who are also wishing for a little more time off, will readjust much better if they return to school to a teacher that is enthusiastic, prepared, and ready to START.
As a social studies teacher, it is my responsibility to inform the junior high students about Veterans Day. However, this day is about so much more than just being able to say we “covered” the topic. It is a privilege for me to share with my students the many ways that brave men and women have protected the freedoms we enjoy today.
Take the time to recognize and appreciate the efforts and achievements of our veterans. Please share how you plan to pay tribute in your classroom or school.